"Visualization is more than just seeing; it is what we consciously and deliberately do with what we see." Guy Tal, Thinking in Monochrome
Each of us has a vision of what we "see". As a photographer, I attempt to create that vision on an image. This process begins with how I shoot the image in the first place. But lately, I have learned that my visualization sometimes is not fully realized until years after the image was shot.
There is a sense of freedom I get knowing that I can take an image from long past and reinvent it to some degree. I believe that one's visualization evolves as we learn more about the art of photography and art in general, or as we gain experience. Lately, I have been studying black and white. I've been reading about it and studying images. Part of my studying is using instant visual feedback as a means of determining if black and white is better way to present an image. I casually do this on an ipad where I take a photo album image and edit it with a black and white filter. If my immediate response is a positive one, I save it and then later, work with the RAW image in Photoshop. Sometimes the instant response is validated, sometimes it is not.
Certain things work very well in black and white; textures for instance. To convert a color image to black and white with the idea that it will better represent your visualization implies that color is simply getting in the way or not adding anything to the image, or perhaps not illustrating the right mood. No doubt, some images must be in black and white to have impact or strike the right mood. In color, they simply would not work. Because of this, I believe a photographer should attempt to create black and white images and should learn when to go with color and when not to. I also believe it should begin with a visualization of a scene, in other words, I am obliged to "see" black and white.
So, part of the learning process is to figure out what works in black and white and what doesn't. This is huge. Next, it takes a certain amount of post-processing skills to pull it off. Ultimately, you are learning to best illustrate your visualization of a moment or scene.
Included here are a few images taken over the years. I went back to these images with the idea that my visualization of the scene was originally in black and white. The images above are of a white ibis on Biscayne Bay. I loved the dark mood set by the mangroves, contrasted by the brightness of the white bird. I think the black and white enhances that mood.
The next image was taken while paddling along the Lopez River. It was early morning and the calm conditions of the water provided beautiful reflections. The shapes of the clouds complemented the textures and tones of the mangroves. While I find this very common scene to be beautiful, the color is a bit distracting and does not do the mangroves justice. On the other hand, the black and white version really brings out the shapes and textures of the trees, which is what draws me to the mangroves in the first place. The clouds are a bonus.
I have photographed white pelicans so many times but never considered a black and white image of them. But, after realizing that what attracts me to these birds is their shapes and feathers, black and white started to make sense. I look at the black and white image and immediately see the variety in the birds, whereas the blue water is very distracting.
While camping on Tiger Key recently, I played with my macro lens to capture various tree snails living on the driftwood that covered the storm-swept beach. In reality, it was not the snails that attracted me but rather it was the textures and patterns of the driftwood. Converting this image to black and white seemed natural to me. The boring snail is no longer the focal point but instead, moderately interrupts the bold patterns of the wood.